Lamine Mili, professor of electrical and computer engineering in Virginia Tech's National Capital Region, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to research the Development of Complex Systems Theories and Methods for Resilient and Sustainable Electric Power and Communications Infrastructures.

Mili is the principal investigator for the four-year study. His team includes Sandeep Shukla, Michael von Spakovsky, and Yilu Liu from Virginia Tech, and research faculty from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.; Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.p; and the Universidade Federal de Itajubá and Pontifica Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, both in Brazil.

This project aims to advance research frontiers by building bridges between the emerging sciences of complex systems and a variety of engineering fields dealing with the design and control of large-scale nonlinear networked systems. Specifically, the proposed research will extend the scope and applicability of the highly-optimized tolerance approach to modeling cascading events across interdependent electric power and communications infrastructures while optimally placing resources for managing the risk of blackouts due to equipment failures or extreme natural hazards.

To endow the infrastructures with the necessary agility to cope with unanticipated failures, the research will develop an agent-based intelligent distributed control scheme supervising a host of microgrids operated by retail markets, which will provide customers with appropriate incentives to participate in energy savings and grid survivability during emergency conditions. Finally, the research will develop the theoretical foundations of a sustainability assessment framework for evaluating the impact of power plant emissions to the degradation of the environment and to societal welfare.

In addition to electric utilities and communications industries, gas and water utilities, and transportation companies will benefit from the methods developed since they operate networked systems that have many similarities with the electric power system.

Reports from the study will be submitted to state and local planning agencies responsible for setting and licensing critical facilities and services that depend on these infrastructures and to those agencies directing investments in Homeland Security. Annual workshops will be organized where academics, industrial leaders, and practicing engineers will be invited to brainstorm the impact of new engineering skills on complex systems.

Virginia Tech plans to incorporate results of the research into various seminars designed for industry and into graduate and undergraduate courses in electric power systems, communications engineering, social and economic sciences. All published papers and developed educational materials will be made available through web-based resource services.

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